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A Murphy, a Melvin, and a Wedgie (full episode)
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2010/03/13
10:39am
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When it comes to joining Facebook affinity groups, grammar lovers have lots of choices. Take, for example, the group whose motto is “Punctuation saves lives.” It’s called “Let’s Eat Grandma!” or “Let’s eat, Grandma!” Martha and Grant talk about their favorite tongue-in-cheek Facebook groups for grammar lovers. Also this week: when to use apostrophes, whether to distinguish between bring and take, and the difference between a murphy and a wedgie.

This episode first aired March 13, 2010.

Download the MP3.

 Facebook Groups for Word-Lovers
Martha and Grant share some favorite Facebook groups:

Ambrose Bierce was the baddest-ass lexicographer who ever lived.
I judge you when you use poor grammar.
What Are A Grammar?
People Who Always Have To Spell Their Names For Other People

Of course, you can also find A Way with Words on Facebook.

 Filking
Ever notice how you can sing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the theme from “Gilligan’s Island”—or for that matter, to “The House of the Rising Sun”? Turns out there are many more examples of this. Is there a word for this musical phenomenon? (Did you know Garrison Keillor can sing “Amazing Grace” to theme song of The Mickey Mouse Club.)

 Fits and Starts
A Connecticut listener says her Generation Y friends make fun of her when she describes something happening in fits and starts. Is it that antiquated a phrase? Where does it come from, anyway?

 Famous Trios Quiz
Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a quiz about famous trios. Try this one: “Steve Martin, Martin Short, and ___________?”

 Mad Props
If someone gives you crazy props or mad props, they’re congratulating you. A Chicago college student wants to know what props means in this context.

 Bring vs. Take
What’s the difference between bring and take?

 Terms for Wedgies
When someone grabs your underwear from behind and gives it a good, vertical yank, it’s called a wedgie. A caller knows that term, but wonders whether and how a wedgie differs from a murphy or a melvin.

 Rhyming Verb and Noun Phrases
Grant quizzes Martha about the meaning of several rhyming verb and noun phrases: cuff and stuff, the cherries and blueberries, chew and screw, eat it and beat it, and flap and zap.

 Nails on a Chalkboard
A Lawrenceville, Georgia, woman wonders: If chalkboards go the way of the buggy whip, what simile will replace the expression “nails on a chalkboard”?

 Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow
Grant answers a listener’s email question about the meaning of the musical phrase chicky-wah-wah.

 Hoarfrost
A caller from Veroqua, Wisconsin, is fascinated by hoarfrost and wonders about the origin of its name. Grant explains its relation to the English term hoary.

 Names Ending in “X”
The mother of a boy named Hendrix wonders how to punctuate the possessive of his name. Should she add an apostrophe or apostrophe with an “s”? Hendrix’ or Hendrix’s?

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by Jenny Downing. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Broadcast

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy O’Donel Levy Killer Jazz Funk From The Groove Merchant Vault LRC Ltd
Step One Jimmy McGriff Step One Solid State
Nose Job James Brown Ain’t It Funky Now King Records
Easter Parade Jimmy McGriff Step One Solid State
Theme From Shaft Isaac Hayes Shaft: Music From The Soundtrack Stax
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
2010/03/13
1:35pm
navarre
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There is a comedian, Bob Rivers, who specializes in putting new lyrics on familiar tunes. I especially remember a couple Christmas albums with songs such “O Little Town of Bethleham” sung to to “The House of the Rising Sun” and “I Am Santa Clause” to the tune of “I Am Ironman” and “Walkin’ ‘Round In Women’s Underwear” to “Winter Wonderland”

2010/03/13
2:07pm
Ron Draney
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Grant Barrett said:

Ever notice how you can sing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the theme from “Gilligan’s Island”—or for that matter, to “The House of the Rising Sun”? Turns out there are many more examples of this. Is there a word for this musical phenomenon? (Did you know Garrison Keillor can sing “Amazing Grace” to theme song of The Mickey Mouse Club.)


Peter Schickele, creator of PDQ Bach and erstwhile host of “Schickele Mix”, could sing Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” to the tune of the tango classic “Hernando’s Hideaway”.

2010/03/13
7:07pm
johng423
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I was on a music team for a weekend spiritual retreat, and we decided among ourselves that we were not going to use the traditional tune for Amazing Grace, so we were trying to think of other tunes that would fit: House of the Rising Sun, Gilligan’s Island, the Coke song (“I’d like to teach the world to sing”), Joy to the World, It Came upon a Midnight Clear (which I like because it fittingly shifts to minor chords right at the “dangers, toils and snares” line)…

One of the leaders came over to see what we were doing, looked at our list, then asked, “How come no one ever sings ‘House of the Rising Sun’ to the tune of ‘Gilligan’s Island’? (I almost burst out laughing.)

2010/03/15
9:16am
johng423
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sing one song to the tune of another – I don’t know if there is a word for exactly that, but it is based on meter, that is, the number of syllables in each line. For example, Amazing Grace is 8.6.8.6., also known as Common Meter. You can read the Wiki article at .

2010/03/15
11:49am
dfilpus
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Back when I was into filking, the Tolkien fans discovered that most of the poetry in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings had the same meter as the Camptown Races. Thus, you would have

A! Elbereth Gilthoniel, Doo Dah, Doo Dah
silivren penna míriel, All the Doo Dah Day

Filking is a much broader that simply singing one song to another’s tunes. It also covers song parodies and original music/words for the various genres of fantasy and science fiction.

2010/03/15
12:40pm
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I sure hadn’t heard all these examples. They’re great! Keep ‘em coming!

2010/03/15
12:40pm
Ron Draney
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I’m now trying to find a suitable piece of music for “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe. That six-lines-per-stanza thing is making it difficult.

2010/03/15
1:28pm
johng423
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punctuation – The first piece in PDQ Bach’s A Consort of Choral Christmas Carols uses the now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t punctuation for effect throughout. The music emphasizes the contrast between such lines in each verse.
http://www.schickele.com/composition/consortchristmas.htm

Thank you to Professor Peter Schickele for his hard work in “discovering” or uncovering the works of this deservedly unknown (LOL) composer.

2010/03/15
1:57pm
Glenn
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My wife and I just had the pleasure this past weekend of seeing the off-Broadway production of the rapid-fire comedy Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, a play by Douglas Carter Beane (who also wrote To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and The Little Dog Laughed). In it Beane, via Mr. Fitch (Lithgow), remarks how many newspaper (New York Post) headlines can be sung to the tune of Camptown Races, with an added doo-dah, doo-dah. John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle, keep you laughing, concentrating, and “introspecting” in such rapid succession, that you have no time to marvel at their skill till the play is over.
The Variety review mentions the doo-dahbility of New York Post headlines:
Doo-Dah

An actual example from the New York Post and the play:
HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR
(Doo-dah. Doo-dah.)
(New York Post, 1982)

2010/03/15
8:51pm
thefunrev
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Just this past Friday night, I was teaching a worship and music class for our conference lay ministers’ academy and used the Amazing Grace words + Gilligan’s Island tune as an example of how to use familiar words in a new context to change the feeling of a worship service. As a preacher, I find nothing to be more disconcerting than ending a segment of a service with excitement only to have that segment followed by a dirge-like hymn, no matter how appropriate the words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”, would be.

And just today, before I even got the e-mail with the topic of the show, I finished rewriting a Gospel story to fit the theme from Gilligan’s Island for Holy Humor Sunday on April 11. Now I want to watch a few episodes for old times’ sake!

–Rev. Ruth

2010/03/15
9:54pm
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I was thinking that a good name for the Lyric Swap-able songs might be Homometers as they have the same meter as the other tunes.

Perhaps we could pronounce this Hahm-a-meter.

So we could say that “Oh My Darling Clementine” and “The Ode To Joy” are Homometers to each other.

-Ken Larson
Porltand, OR

2010/03/15
11:13pm
Ron Draney
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They’re also meter-equivalent to the Marine Corps Hymn, to my father’s never-ending annoyance.

Has anyone yet suggested the term “mashup” for these combinations of one song’s words with another’s tune? I know the term covers a lot more ground than that (Weird Al Yankovic’s song “eBay” to the tune of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”, expertly blended with the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving”, for example), but surely it’s a subset of that kind of thing.

To change the subject to another item on this show, the “chicka wow wow” phrase is one of the more comment-inspiring parts of a viral video called “kittens inspired by kittens”, in which a 5-year-old girl provides captions for pictures found in a book about kittens.

2010/03/16
1:46am
dland
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I want to endorse modhran’s “homometer”, though we may assume that it it will be mispronounced “hah-MAHM-it-ur”, as though it was a device for measuring (or metric unit of) “homoms”. It also runs the risk of being misconstrued (as all words beginning “homo” inevitably are by hoi polloi) as relating to homosexuality (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”).

As for the Glenn’s comment about news headlines and “Camptown Races”, I wonder if anyone here has seen the “Doo-Dah News” ticker at badgods.com/doodahnews.html? Big fun there.

2010/03/16
1:51am
navarre
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Perhaps “transpo-tunes” or “modular music”? Dare we go to “thesauritonic”? Ugh! Sounds like Titanic’s ugly sister…

2010/03/16
3:02am
Ron Draney
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navarre said:

Perhaps “transpo-tunes” or “modular music”? Dare we go to “thesauritonic”? Ugh! Sounds like Titanic’s ugly sister…


I think it sounds like a cough syrup you’d give to a sick dinosaur.

2010/03/16
6:14am
Glenn
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johng423 said:

sing one song to the tune of another – I don’t know if there is a word for exactly that, but it is based on meter, that is, the number of syllables in each line. For example, Amazing Grace is 8.6.8.6., also known as Common Meter. You can read the Wiki article at .


I think the official name of this is Metric(al) Equivalence, and the songs are called Metric(al) Equivalents. Several (older?) hymnbooks have indices in the back. One of those indices might be A Metric Index of Tunes. Such an index is provided to allow precisely for this substitution of tunes with lyrics. There are countless possibilities within most hymnbooks. I find that using unfamiliar words with familiar hymn tunes works best for congregational singing. For solo work, the reverse is true.

But I like to call them “toodatunas,” or “tunas” for short.

[edit: added the following] In looking at a metric list of hymns in one hymnbook, just this morning I discovered the following “tuna:”
Amazing Grace (Common Meter 86.86)
America the Beautiful (Common Meter Double 86.86.86.86)

So you can sing the words to Amazing Grace to the tune of America the Beautiful, fitting two verses of lyrics into a single verse of music. It works quite well, since the lyric verses run closely together into a single narrative.

I was too scared to try Gilligan’s Island to the tune of America the Beautiful

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

2010/03/16
10:41am
bklvr
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I vote for Homometer.

As a kid, we also sang Amazing Grace to the Coke Song “I’d like to buy the world a home…” ending it with “He’s the real thing, Christ is, What the world needs today/ He’s the real thing.”

AND

we sang it to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.” (I always preferred minor keys, myself.)

One upbeat, one even slower and solemn and, well, potentially dirgelike.
Interchangable parts! It’s like playing Maestro Potato Head. heh

2010/03/16
12:49pm
Glenn
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Grant Barrett said:

When it comes to joining Facebook affinity groups, grammar lovers have lots of choices. Take, for example, the group whose motto is “Punctuation saves lives.” It’s called “Let’s Eat Grandma!'” or “Let’s eat, Grandma!”


I have a nominee for the “Let’s eat Grandma” award for copy editing. Please refer to the online version of what, in print version, appears on the front page with headline type font. It is an article intending to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Bull Market’s return to Wall Street but, in the end — the wrong end — coming out with a very different message:

Happy Birthday Bull! (click for article)

2010/03/16
4:59pm
Ron Draney
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johng423 said:

I was on a music team for a weekend spiritual retreat, and we decided among ourselves that we were not going to use the traditional tune for Amazing Grace, so we were trying to think of other tunes that would fit: House of the Rising Sun, Gilligan’s Island, the Coke song (“I’d like to teach the world to sing”), Joy to the World, It Came upon a Midnight Clear (which I like because it fittingly shifts to minor chords right at the “dangers, toils and snares” line)…


Another good one that I don’t believe has been mentioned yet is “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. Because of the pause in the melody in the middle of the fourth couplet of each verse, it’s especially effective with those lyrics that save their “punch” for the last line. Try it with “America the Beautiful”.

(Probably works better if you’re a bass-baritone, like me.)

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